What is Mine and What is Not — Or, Why I Want to Smile More

It takes a lot of effort to be concerned all the time. Seriously.
And it’s heavy. It quite literally weighs on you.

I’ve been struggling in recent weeks (months) with what it means to do this kind of work.

See, for the past six months I’ve been on Internship. What that means is that I’ve been at a church full-time, as a kind of student/pastor hybrid, under the supervision of the called and ordained Pastor of this congregation, being immersed completely in the workings of this faith community.

And this work has a great deal of heaviness to it. Regardless of how you feel about body/soul dualism (I tend not to align with Plato/Descartes), I think it’s fair to say that there’s a great deal of importance placed on the kind of work pastors do, and as such, there’s a degree of gravitas that gets infused into almost every aspect of what we do.

People lay a lot of “stuff” on their pastor. The work that happens in a church on a daily basis carries a lot of that “stuff” with it. Whether it’s brainstorming bible studies or planning youth group or putting together plans for a memorial service, that “stuff” feels ever-present. And it’s easy for me to take that “stuff” with me. I want to hold these things, these people and their situations, in my mind. I want to pray with them, remember with them, and be vulnerable with them.

And it’s a lot to do…

And all of that means that my mind can feel very serious a good deal of the time.

A piece of advice that has been repeated often to me is to figure out what is mine and what is not. People, and this work, can be consuming if I let it. The challenge is in discerning what things, what “stuff,” is mine and what of these things are what people and this work places on me.

Figure out what is yours, and what is not.

Yesterday, as I observed an interaction, I was reminded that just because the work and the themes are often heavy, I need to, and I think I have a responsibility to, set that heaviness to the side, particularly when I’m with my family. For my own sake, and the general health of my family, I just can’t carry all these things around with me all the time.

Certainly for the past few weeks, and if I’m being honest, the past few months, I haven’t done a very good job of this. It’s been a while since I’ve genuinely smiled, a while since I’ve joked with my wife, a while since I’ve not felt like a weight was pushing down on me. Maybe some of that is this seemingly never-ending Chicago winter, but I’m also sure that carrying a lot of “stuff” around with me has been part of it too.

I’ve always tried as much as possible to be a fully-integrated person. The person I am at church, is the same person I am with my family, is the same person I am with my friends. I’m learning that fully-integrated doesn’t mean that I don’t need to compartmentalize. And, frankly, I can’t be the same person at church as I am with my friends, it doesn’t work like that. I can’t say the same things with my friends as I do with my family. Just like I’m not my wife’s pastor; the person I am at church does not belong at home with my family.

I’m working on this… It’s a process.

“Figure out what is yours, and what is not.”

Smile more.

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